nolan-carroll_web.pngSpecial to South Florida Times

It is one of the little ironies of life that, while the Miami Dolphins’ 2010 season was collapsing around them, one of their players was getting worldwide attention – but not for action on the field.
Well, not quite.

Nolan Carroll II, a cornerback and kick returner, was deliberately tripped during the Dec. 12 match-up with the New York Jets as he was barreling down the sidelines at full speed.

Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee and Carroll went tumbling to the ground.

Alosi apologized for his “inexcusable” behavior.  He was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season and fined $25,000. The video of his action was seen around the world.

It was not quite what professional footballers sign up for and Carroll, of course, was not happy.

“We’re the ones at risk out there and, for someone to intentionally try to hurt you like that, it’s just uncalled for,” he said in a recent interview.

Neither was his mother, also famous in her own right as the first black elected lieutenant governor of Florida with the victory of the Rick Scott Republican gubernatorial campaign in November.

Jennifer Carroll said she was disappointed that a professional whose responsibility it is to make the players healthy would try to hurt one of them.

But the incident has not dampened the rookie’s enthusiasm for a sport which he got into by accident and has come to love.

As a child, Carroll’s dream, in fact, had been to make it to the World Cup, having played soccer from age 6 until his late teens.

Then, around his sophomore year at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, he got into football – but not because he particularly wanted to.

“I didn’t have any friends to hang out with because everybody else was playing football,” Carroll said. “I decided to go ahead and play football so I could hang out with the guys, because all I was doing was sitting around the house babysitting my brother and sister,” he recalled. That would be his younger brother Necho and sister, Nyckie.

But, once in football, Carroll played so well that he received several scholarship offers.  He settled on the University of Maryland at College Park, where he earned a bachelor of science in Family Science.

It was while playing college ball that Carroll realized he might have a shot at turning pro. It was no fantasy. The Miami Dolphins picked him in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL draft in April.

“When I got the phone call, it was surreal,” he said. “I didn’t know how to react, at first, because this was something that I’d been working towards for a while. It took a while to set in but now it has and I’m very happy.”

He’s even more excited for his father, Nolan Carroll Sr., a Miami native, who, with his wife, attended the Dolphins’ game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium, which the home team lost 34-27.

“This is his childhood team,” Carroll, 23, said of his father. “It’s the team he grew up with, so, for his son to play for his favorite team, it was special for him.”

Special, too, was his mother’s successful campaign with Scott.

“It has been an experience,” he said.

He doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with her. In fact, his voice rises when he talks about her.

“I think it’s amazing. Every time I talked to her, every time I saw her, I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice. She was excited about what she was doing.  I knew then this was going to be something special,” he said. “For me to be along with this ride with her, supporting her, it’s been very rewarding.”

His parents have watched most of his games in person and, for Jennifer Carroll, every experience is the same: nerve-wracking.

“My stomach goes in a knot. I worry that he’s safe and he
doesn’t drop the ball and that he doesn’t mess up … and until the play is finished. Then I’m relieved,” she said, laughing, during a phone interview a few days after the Dolphins-Lions game.

Such concern for his welfare is something Carroll has grown to expect from his parents.

“You’re the product of the 20-plus years they’ve put in, giving their time and teaching their children responsibility. I’d imagine they’d be very proud, and I’m very proud of them because they’re the ones that put in all the work,” he said. “They’re the ones that took me to practice. They’re the ones that got me football shoes that I needed. They’re the ones that gave me money when I was in college. They did those things for me, and I appreciate them for that.”

But now he is on his own, experiencing first-hand the work ethic required to succeed in the NFL. Football is quite different on the college level than in the pros, he said, and requires much more discipline.

“Having to take care of your body, going to bed, eating right, film study, perfecting your craft. … it’s been a learning experience,” he said. “So far, this rookie year has been hectic, just film, practice and sleep when I can.”

Daphne Taylor may be reached at Daphnetaylor_49@hotmail.com.

Photo by Alan Luby. Nolan Carroll